So here it is…..everybody, the pre-Crimbo race-fest with highly competitive action from the meetings at Askers and Haddock.

Starting in Berkshire, the first race up is the Howden Handicap Chase at 1.50, which has a field of 10 due to line up.

Best handicapped horse in this race is Knight In Dubai from Team Skelton, which returned from a mammoth break to run a race full of promise at Aintree in early November. Rated 143 last year before injury struck, this 8-y-o competes today off 136 and, with that run behind it, can take this event under Harry. We suggest a win bet at 4-1.

The only non-handicap race of the six on telly is the Howden Long Walk Hurdle at 2.25 which includes every usual suspect known to man and sees Thyme Hill installed as 9-4 fav. Those odds would probably be justified if it weren’t for the 7-y-o’s abject failure in France just over a month ago and we prefer the chances of the Irish challenger Ronald Pump.

This 8-y-o has twice been second to Honeysuckle recently, but no horse has finished closer and, having finished second in the Festival Stayers’ Hurdle, today’s trip of 3 miles should be right up its strasser. Take the 4-1 available.

Back to handicaps for the 3.00, the Howden Silver Cup, run over 3 miles.

This is an 11-2 the field contest and we throw two darts, starting with Checkitout.

NT-D‘s 7-y-o finished second in a similar contest over this CD at the end of October off today’s mark before a brave third in the Becher Chase at Aintree two weeks ago and can give another good account this afternoon under Son Sam. We go each way at 8-1.

Our second pick is the veteran Valtor, which is available at a likeable 25-1. Now in the very capable hands of Mel Rowley, this sprightly 12-y-o won this very race on stable debut for Nicky Henderson after its arrival from France in 2018. That was off 148 and it’s now off 138, so provided the fire has been rekindled by the change of yard, a big run could ensue.

Final race on the Ascot card is the Betfair Exchange Trophy at 3.35 and we have a strong fancy for Benson in this.

The Good Doctor’s 6-y-o was a close fourth in this race last year off a 4lb higher mark and, after two promising runs this season, should be properly teed up for today with a visor added for good measure. At 14-1 and 5 places on offer, this could be an absolute, er, cracker.

We also give a chance to Drop The Anchor from Peter Fahy‘s yard, which ran a very good prep race on the Flat and finished a close 7th in last season’s County Hurdle off today’s mark. At 18-1, an each way tickle is advised.

Just the two races from Haydock, starting with the Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle at 2.05, which has a field of 9.

Stella Magic is our selection for this.

Philip Hobbs‘ 6-y-o won its first two runs for the yard, one on soft, one on heavy before chipping a knee bone in February and has been on the sidelines since then. Subsequent exploits of its Novice victims makes this a very well handicapped horse and, with the Trainer reporting all is well, it’s a must bet at 3-1.

Finally we come to the Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at 2.40, in which we have two picks.

Remastered just has to be one of them after looking to take a hand in the finish of the Ladbroke before going rump over mammary at the fourth last. Reported to be none the worse for that mishap, ground conditions are very much in favour and this 8-y-o should be backed at 9-4.

The other one we like is Buzz de Turcoing which would have won ‘half the track’ at Ayr last time out but for getting bored out in front. Short of experience but long on potential, we recommend an each way bet at 7-1.

Sincere festive greetings to you all.


Knight In Dubai 1.50 Ascot 2pts win @ 4-1

Ronald Pump 2.25 Ascot 2pts win @ 4-1

Checkitout 3.00 Ascot 1.5pts e/w @ 8-1 (5 places Skybet)

Valtor 3.00 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 25-1 (5 places Skybet)

Benson 3.35 Ascot 2pts e/w @ 14-1 (5 places)

Drop The Anchor 3.35 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 18-1 (5 places)

Stella Magic 2.05 Haydock 2pts win @ 3-1

Remastered 3.15 Haydock 3pts win @ 9-4

Buzz de Turcoing 3.15 Haydock 1pt e/w @ 7-1 (5 places)

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